Review: Set during the middle of the Second Sino-Japanese War in the late 1930s, antiques dealer Leah Kolbe flees her home in Hong Kong for the relative safety of Macau and becomes embroiled in espionage in Deep Night, the second book in this series by Caroline Petit.
Arriving in Macau penniless, Leah seeks assistance from the British consulate. She's given a secretarial position, but her past quickly catches up with her. Though Macau is formally neutral territory, it is teeming with Japanese and Chinese officials seeking an advantage in their war with each other. A former antique trade contact from China coerces Leah into acting as a conduit of information and cash between Britain and China all the while she's acting as an informal spy for her own government. To complicate matters, she's taken on a Japanese lover though she's engaged to be married to a British officer who's being held in a detention camp by the Japanese. The war seems endless and Leah doesn't see any relief from the complex situations in which she is involved.
The overview of Deep Night suggests it might be a suspense novel, or a novel of international intrigue, but it is neither nor is it a mystery in any way. To be fair, it's not listed as such; still, potential readers may be led to believe it to be. Setting aside its genre classification, it is not all that compelling of a novel. One might think the reader would sympathize with Leah who lost everything when she fled Hong Kong. Yet she is a distinctly unlikeable character, petulant and self-centered. Her only redeeming feature is that everyone around her is comparatively worse.
The author takes great care in describing Macau during this turbulent time and in retrospect Deep Night seems to be more of a fictional study of this period than a plot-driven novel. It's well written and historically interesting in its own way, but the somewhat aimless storyline involving Leah, spies and counterspies, set over a 7 year or so time frame, is disappointing. On a positive note, the story ends in such a way that the next book in the series will give Leah a fresh start following the end of World War II.
Acknowledgment: Soho Press provided an ARC of Deep Night for this review.
Review Copyright © 2009 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Location(s) referenced in Deep Night: Hong Kong, Macau
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Deep Night by Caroline Petit — A Leah Kolbe Mystery
Publisher: Soho Press
Publication Date: December 2008
List Price: $24.00
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Page Author: Lance Wright
Site Publisher: Mysterious Reviews
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